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Thom Barker: Scheer’s fireside message… well, that was painful

Thom Barker
Thom Barker - Contributed

It is 2019. Is it too early to start talking about the upcoming federal election?

Of course not, the campaigning has already begun.

First out of the gate was Conservative leader Andrew Scheer with an awkward, hyper-partisan, inappropriate and embarrassing attack ad disguised as a Christmas message.

Titled “Fireside with Andrew Scheer: A tall Christmas tale,” the video begins with Scheer standing by a fireplace flipping through a book.

“You know, one of my favourite traditions around this time of year is reading a story around the fireplace,” he intones. “This one is a magical tale filled with wild promises and numbers as unrealistic as Santa keeping to his diet.”

Ugh.

He goes on to reveal the book is the government’s most recent budget, which he describes as “pretty scary.”

“The ending is pretty bleak,” he goes on. “There’s a massive new carbon tax and the Grinch leaves a big deficit for all the Whos in Whoville to pay back for him.”

Predictably, the blowback was immediate and intense and the party quickly backtracked releasing a new video that was more generic, inoffensive and full of empty platitudes, you know, the way Christmas messages from political leaders should be.

It would be comical if not for the implications. This guy is currently the only potential alternative to Justin Trudeau to become prime minister come October. In end-of-the-year polling on who Canadian voters think would make the best PM, he is neck-and-neck with Trudeau, although both are personally unpopular.

A Christmas message is an opportunity for contenders to at least appear prime ministerial. This is important because once the votes have been counted and you’ve won your majority government with way less than a majority of the votes as almost always happens in our first-past-the-post system, it is time to govern for all Canadians, not just the ones who put you in that position.

Trudeau’s Christmas message was more on point.

He wishes everyone Merry Christmas, talks about joy and cheer and blessings and thanks the soldiers who are far from home.

Like Scheer, however, he couldn’t help himself from throwing in a little bit of partisanship

“We’re also thinking of the hardworking Canadian families who might be struggling to make ends meet this Christmas. Our government is working to make things a little easier for you,” he says, referencing the Liberals’ housing strategy, seniors policy and Canada Child Benefit.

By contrast, though, there is no contest for who got it right (the first time).

I am what most people would consider a lesser-of-evils voter. None of the current political offerings inspire me, so what I am looking for is candidates who do not view power as a zero-sum game. I have never voted on the basis of what is in it for me. Call me an idealist, but I want to believe the people I am voting for have the greater good at heart and that their definition of the greater good aligns with my own small-l liberal democratic values of rule-of-law, human rights, environmental responsibility and evidence-based decision-making.

That is not to say I do not recognize that in any election outcome there will be some people who benefit more than others, but I want to see some evidence of a worldview that is not based on the winner-take-all attitude the seems to infect modern conservatism in particular.

Scheer’s pre-damage control video demonstrates to me not just poor judgement, but that he cannot be trusted to govern in a way that at least attempts to benefit the greatest number of people most of the time.

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